Friday, August 1, 2014

Smokin Thighs Restaurant Aims to Open This Month on Wedgewood

Posted By on Fri, Aug 1, 2014 at 2:49 PM


While on the way over to the fairgrounds for a little #mayoralchatter, we noticed that Smokin Thighs bricks-and-mortar home looked striped up and ready to go on Wedgewood Avenue with the familiar green paint job from the food truck now adorning a building.

Bites ducked inside and found Matt Carney working on the place, which he says he hopes to open on Aug. 25. In spite of our standing objection to the use of barnwood in restaurants, the place looks great, with red chairs and a pretty tin ceiling. It has 80 seats (with maybe a few more on the patio), a big row of TVs on one wall — perfect for the upcoming football season — and a cool little beer bar in the back. The menu will feature smoked chicken in all its forms, along with some sides that they currently are unable to make on the truck. Fans of the truck will be happy to hear that it will still keep traveling around the city after the restaurant opens.

Carney says the restaurant already has secured a license to serve liquor (which is regulated by the state), but may not have a license to serve beer (regulated by Metro) in time for the opening. This leads to a peculiar situation: They'll be able to offer high-gravity beer but not the more familiar low-gravity brews. Carney says he's been working with Councilwoman Sandra Moore on the permit. "She's been very helpful," he says.

Side note: You can't help but note the ridiculousness of the two permitting schemes. Why in the world should a place that's already permitted for liquor not be allowed to sell beer? I understand that they are different boards, but is anybody really so concerned about a place selling beer when it's already able to sell much more potent alcohol?

Watch for Smokin Thighs soon at 611 Wedgewood Ave., and follow the progress on Facebook.

Panoramic view of the inside, click for larger view.
  • @scavendish
  • Panoramic view of the inside, click for larger view.

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Cook it Caveman-Style with the New Paleo Grilling Cookbook

Posted By on Fri, Aug 1, 2014 at 8:04 AM

Mojo Pork Shoulder
  • Photo: Paleo Grilling
  • Mojo Pork Shoulder
I've never really gotten into the Paleo diet debate. Eating food in its most simple unprocessed form like our ancient ancestors did seems like a good idea, but I'm not sure that everybody who claims Paleo status isn't just looking for an excuse to eat more meat, like in the old Atkins diet days of yore.

But with their new book Paleo Grilling, authors Tony Frederico and James William Phelan offer more than 100 recipes for cooking like caveman, especially if that Neanderthal had access to a gas grill. Whether you use charcoal or gas, this book has some really nice recipes for grilling or smoking simple meat, vegetable and even dessert dishes. They emphasize using locally sourced products whenever possible, and also provide some drink recipes to accompany your grilled treats.

The Paleo preaching is actually pretty minimal and all located at the very beginning of the book. The authors' guide to grilling and recipes for homemade marinades, sauces, rubs and condiments are simple but creative. Other recipes include Grilled Pork Cutlets with Apple Saffron Compote and Sweet Potato Salad, Dijon Chicken with Arugula and Cherry Tomatoes, Grilled Swordfish with Jicama Mango Slaw, Grilled Lamb Steaks with Herb Gremolata, The Ultimate Paleo Burger, Bruschetta Deviled Eggs in Crispy Pancetta Cups, and Kicked Up Ketchup.

Whether you're a proponent of Paleo or not, Paleo Grilling is a pretty fine cookbook for anyone interested in improving their outdoor cooking chops. In fact, I've got an extra copy of the book (thanks to the fact that I thought they hadn't sent me a review copy when they already had, my bad ... ) which I would be happy to donate to a lucky Bites reader. I'm keeping the other one for my home cookbook library and have already prepared a couple of the recipes to great acclaim.

The authors have graciously allowed us to share an excerpt recipe, and I can personally attest to how delicious this Mojo Pork Shoulder dish is. Give it a try!

Continue reading »

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The Weekly Open Thread: Restaurants and Smartphones

Posted By on Fri, Aug 1, 2014 at 7:00 AM

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If you're the type who reads food blogs, and apparently you are, you are likely aware of the Craigslist rant a few weeks ago regarding the use of smartphones in restaurants — for taking photos, social media, texting, whatev.

In the piece, an anonymous alleged restaurant owner in New York City claimed that by comparing surveillance videos from 2004 and this year, he or she has determined that diners are now spending so much time with their smartphones that average meal durations have increased by about 50 minutes. It's a bold claim, and I won't bore you with the minutiae since you can find it here.

Here's what I want to know:

• Do you use your smartphone in restaurants, whether to take photos, use social media, check email or text?

• If so, under what circumstances? Only if the need is urgent? As a matter of course?

• If you don't use your smartphone in restaurants, do you object to others doing so? Do you feel like it is degrading the experience?

• What else is on your mind?

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Thursday, July 31, 2014

Best in Chow Scours Nashville for the Best in BBQ and Hot Dogs

Posted By on Thu, Jul 31, 2014 at 8:24 AM

Definitely a social media-savvy bunch of judges
  • Definitely a social media-savvy bunch of judges
If you happened to see a bunch of folks in black T-shirts emblazoned with the word "Judge" being chased around by a group of Canadians with cameras and microphones last week, you were probably in the background of a scene being shot for Best in Chow. The Calgary-based show airs on CMT in Canada and on the Cooking Channel in the States, and features competition between restaurants in towns all over the U.S.

Last week, they came to Nashville searching for the best barbecue and hot dogs for two episodes slated to air later this fall. I had the opportunity to see the process from the inside as the "expert" judge for the barbecue segment, and I came away duly impressed. I've been on a few different food shows through the years, but this staff was more efficient with their time and more creative in their shot planning than any film crew I've ever had to spend hours waiting for.

Part of the efficiency may have been the result of who the other judges were. I had been contacted a few weeks earlier about being their on-air local guide to the barbecue scene, a duty that assured me at least a few seconds of airtime and a small stipend. So when I arrived at the hotel lobby where we met up to get on the bus to ferry us around town from pit to pit, I was interested how they rounded up the other seven judges.

The assembled crowd was a nice cross-section of ages and ethnicities, and I was immediately struck by how perky and expressive they all were. While we took turns getting a quick spackling from the makeup artist, I asked how they found out about the gig. To a man (and woman) they all responded "Craigslist." It was then that I made the connection.

This wasn't a bunch of foodies; they were actors. The small talk between shoots revolved around roles as extras on the upcoming Jurassic Park sequel being shot in New Orleans and appearances on "Web series" (a new concept to me) and whose acting coach was really helping them make some creative breakthroughs. At first, I felt like I had stumbled into a Bart Durham commercial shoot, but the group really was a personable bunch of folks who took their jobs seriously, even if they did like sticky sweet ribs. I tried my best to hold my own, but I couldn't touch their skills addressing the camera and oozing enthusiasm at the appropriate moments.

I can't tell you who won, so you'll have to wait until October. But I can say that we visited Hog Heaven, Peg Leg Porker and the Wildhorse Saloon, and all three served some pretty respectable barbecue. The host is a standup comedian named Chris Nannarone who was a consummate professional and really seemed to care about interacting with everyone he met. He was definitely impressed by Nashville, and if they get a third-season order, I'll bet they'll be back.

Continue reading »

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Win a Fridge Full of Tennessee Goodness From Local Palate Magazine

Posted By on Thu, Jul 31, 2014 at 6:25 AM

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  • southernfridgetn.com/
GE, Local Palate magazine and Made in Tennessee have come together to put put on a fun little sweepstakes to reward some lucky entrant with a new GE refrigerator packed full of Tennessee products, some from our talented Nashville purveyors. (In the interest of fair disclosure, I write for Local Palate a few times a year, as often as they'll let me. Oh, and I use GE light bulbs if that matters ...)

All you have to do to enter is to answer a few easy questions about Tennessee food that no Bites reader should have any difficulty with at all. (Especially if you remember dear old D-A-D. Hint, hint.) The contest runs until Sept. 30, and you can enter once per day per computer or mobile device.

And you might just want to take the time to stuff that entry box, because a pretty impressive roster of Tennessee artisans have contributed to the prize bounty. Just locally, the list includes: Willa's Shortbread, Brittle Brothers, Blushing Berry, Goo Goo Clusters, Loveless Cafe, Porter Road Butcher, Nashville Toffee Company, Portside Java and The Hamery. That's not even mentioning some other treats from outside of Middle Tennessee. Here's your final hint: Benton's Bacon.

So click on over to Local Palate's sweepstakes page and feel free to share with whoever referred you if you happen to win. I'm ineligible, dadgummit!

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Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Antica in 5th and Main Closes

Posted By on Wed, Jul 30, 2014 at 4:35 PM

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Bites got an email that Antica, the tapas place in 5th & Main, had closed. We called to follow up and found no one answering. Their Open Table page is offline, too.

Matt Rogers over at Eater talked with the owners, who confirmed they're out, and that a sports bar with a bacon-heavy menu is going in.

It's not surprising. The buzz around the place has been bad for months, and when Carrington Fox reviewed it in April, she found more misses than hits:

When it comes to reviewing restaurants, my reporter's notebook positively bubbles with Champagne problems. Pork-belly-and-deviled-egg overload. Cocktail-choice paralysis. Farm-to-table fatigue. Pop! Pop! Pop!

(I've said it before, and I'll say it again: It's a great time to be dining in Music City.)

And yet the thing about Champagne problems is that no matter how high on the pyramid of needs they may be, they still need to be addressed. That's especially true in Nashville restaurants, because diners have so many excellent alternatives these days, they don't need to put up with problems, Champagne or otherwise.

Such was our conclusion after two dinners at Antica, the easygoing tapas restaurant that opened in November in the former Otter's Chicken Tenders space in the 5th & Main development in East Nashville. Our visits included several inventive recipes served by friendly, low-key staff, in a proverbial clean, well-lighted place; but quality was inconsistent and below the new high standard met by so many other establishments in the neighborhood.

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Eyes on the Pies: State Fair Hosts Big Pie Contest, Plus More Ways Show Off Culinary Skills and Win

Posted By on Wed, Jul 30, 2014 at 8:11 AM

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Last week, Chris Chamberlain told you about the Tennessee State Fair’s Taste of Tennessee festival and homebrew competition, and I told you about competitions at a couple of the local county fairs. The deadline for entries for the beer brewing contest has passed, and many of the county fairs accept entries only from county residents, but there are still plenty of opportunities to compete against your fellow Tennesseans in the Tennessee State Fair’s culinary-themed contests.

The big competition is the “Best Two Crust Apple Pie” contest. Last year, more than 80 Tennesseans from all over the state vied for the title. The winning entry — from Molly Callicott of Lawrenceburg — got top honors in no small part due to a bit of Jack Daniel’s Tennessee Honey in the cream sauce that topped her pie. Keep that in mind (along with other factors such as texture and appearance) when coming up with your own entry. And it’s well worth your while; the first-place winner not only receives the blue ribbon, but a $500 cash prize as well. Register for the contest by Sept. 9.

Along with the big pie contest, there are a number of other mouth-watering ways to compete. There are cash awards and ribbons for winning fruit and vegetable entries, heaviest watermelon and pumpkin entries, and all sorts of canned goods, including the award for Tennessee State Fair Outstanding Canner, which is special recognition for the exhibitor winning the most ribbons in the Canned Products categories.

The Taste of Tennessee festival also includes the Music City Cook-Off, a “super regional” qualifying event for the World Food Championships in categories of bacon, dessert, and seafood. For the kids, there’s also the Ice Cream Eating Contest. And my own personal contest, How Many Pineapple Whips Can I Eat in One Day.

This year’s Tennessee State Fair runs from Sept. 5-14 at the Tennessee State Fairgrounds, 500 Wedgewood Ave. Check the website for each day's hours of operations.

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Midtown Cafe Salutes Julia Child With Special Menus at Lunch and Dinner

Posted By on Wed, Jul 30, 2014 at 6:41 AM

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  • midtowncafe.com
With the influx of celebrity chefs and television personalities visiting Nashville to open restaurants or cook in local kitchens, it's important to take time remember the precursors who made culinary television possible and popular. And perched on top of that particular cake is the inimitable (well, not completely) Julia Child.

In honor of Child's upcoming birthday on Aug. 15, Midtown Cafe will recognize her with a special "Salute to Julia Child" menu. Diners can order French dishes such as vichyssoise, canard a l’orange, salade Niçoise and sole meunière for lunch and dinner from now through Sunday, Aug. 17, and a portion of the proceeds will benefit a scholarship fund at Nashville State Community College’s Randy Rayburn School of Culinary Arts.

Click here to view the Salute lunch menu and here to see the dinner menu.

For reservations, call 615-320-7176 or go to midtowncafe.com.

"Save the liver!"

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Tuesday, July 29, 2014

No Nashville Hot Chicken in Manhattan (For Now)

Posted By on Tue, Jul 29, 2014 at 10:31 AM

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The dream of hot chicken in Manhattan has suffered a setback.

As Bites readers will recall, back in February we got wind of a restaurant making plans to open in the old Odessa's Cafe location on Avenue A, with the intention of serving comfort food "with a southern feel specializing in Nashville Hot Chicken."

We even got a glimpse of the planned menu.

But it isn't happening, Bites has learned — at least not in the old Odessa's location. The man behind the plan, Ravi DeRossi (Death & Co., Bourgeois Pig), said in an email, "Unfortunately we did not get approved for a liquor license in this specific space."

But, he added, "We are in the process of looking for a new space for this concept."

The dream lives on, maybe.

Caitlin White contributed reporting for this post.

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City Winery Opens Vinofile Club Membership Sale

Posted By on Tue, Jul 29, 2014 at 8:15 AM

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  • citywinery.com/
If you've driven down Lafayette Street in SoBro lately, you've probably noticed the huge City Winery sign that has been erected over their new facility being renovated at 609 Lafayette. The new business will be a combination working winery/restaurant/private dining space/live music venue, and the early lineup of acts coming to perform there is pretty impressive.

If this sounds like your kind of place, you might consider joining their Vinofile club. Members receive advance notice of shows and the opportunity to purchase tickets before the general public plus other benefits. Membership costs $75 per year, which includes a $25 certificate to use at City Winery's online wine store. Here's a listing of all the perks of Vinofile membership:

— No Service Fees on all ticket purchases.
— 48-Hour advance notice to purchase tickets before the public.
— Free glass of Tap Wine for every 10 glasses of Tap Wine purchased.
— Free pair of Reserved Tickets for every $500 spent at the restaurant.
— Special invites to members-only events throughout the year.
— Online website view of your wine consumption with expert Virtual Wine Sommelier™ recommendations tailored to your preferences.
— The membership program works all locations — New York, Chicago, Napa and Nashville

Other membership opportunities at the original City Winery locations don't appear on the Nashville website for purchase yet, but they include a wine club where members receive delivery of wine to their home or office twice a year and a Barrel Club membership where you can actually blend your own wine for delivery in cases of bottles with customized labels. Maybe we can look forward to these sorts of opportunities in the future, but in the meantime, head to the local website if you want to sign up for Vinofile status.

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